PSU Liberal Arts Building to feature bird-friendly glass

The 143,000-sf Susan Welch Liberal Arts Building will be home to several bird-friendly features, including a section of bird-friendly glass and an experimental design feature that should help prevent window strikes.

The feature is an interesting intersection of science and architecture. The pilot approach to minimizing bird collisions will be monitored during peak migration season by a professor and students. They will record the collisions observed, which areas of the building are hit, the species and other relevant information.

Window strikes occur when birds collide with glass windows, often fatally. Due to the ocular anatomy of birds and how they perceive depth, they cannot see glass. In daylight, they may collide with glass because reflections of foliage and vegetation appear as a continuation of the landscape around them. At night, nocturnal migrants are attracted by lighted windows and crash while attempting to land indoors. It is estimated that up to 1 billion birds die from window strikes yearly in the U.S.

Thanks to $65,000 of funding received from Penn State Sustainability, the Welch Building will be equipped to counter this design challenge sustainably. On the first floor, a dual space classroom/community room was identified as the most likely place where window strikes could occur. It will now be built using bird glass, a traditional and professionally produced solution featuring permanent markings — dots or stripes — etched onto the window’s exterior face that allow birds to see the surface before flying into it.